Tag Archives: congressional budget office

Too many riding in the wagon and not enough pulling

Too many riding in the wagon and not enough pulling the wagon. Is the USA heading down the same path as Greece?

U.S. Should Learn from Europe’s Welfare State Mistakes

by Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell is a top expert on tax reform and supply-side tax policy at the Cato Institute.

Added to cato.org on November 8, 2011

This article appeared in US News and World Report on November 7, 2011.

Our long-run outlook is grim, but at least we still have time to reform the entitlement programs and save America from Greek-style fiscal collapse.

The conventional wisdom among economists is that a nation gets in deep trouble when government debt reaches 90 percent of GDP. That’s generally true, but it would be much more accurate to say that a nation gets in deep trouble when debt approaches 90 percent of GDP and the fiscal outlook shows even more red ink.

But this distinction doesn’t really matter much for the United States and Europe. Thanks to a combination of entitlement programs and aging populations, both face a bleak fiscal future. A 2010 study from the Bank for International Settlement shows that government debt in most industrialized nations will soar above 200 percent of GDP (in some cases, much higher) within the next few decades.

At some point, investors are going to realize that the United States is on an unsustainable path.

The only major difference is that European nations are farther down the path to fiscal collapse. The welfare state was adopted earlier in Europe and government spending among euro nations now consumes a staggering 49 percent of economic output. This heavy fiscal burden, especially when combined with onerous tax systems, helps explain why growth is anemic.

But the United States is only a couple of decades behind. According to long-run forecasts from the Congressional Budget Office, the burden of federal spending will reach European levels as the baby boom generation retires.

At some point, investors are going to realize that the United States is on an unsustainable path. Whether that’s 10 years from now or 20 years from now is anybody’s guess.

Daniel J. Mitchell is a top expert on tax reform and supply-side tax policy at the Cato Institute.

More by Daniel J. Mitchell

What we do know, however, is that Greece, Portugal, and Ireland already have stuck their snouts in the bailout trough, and it’s probably just a matter of time before Italy, Spain, and Belgium are in the same category. Heck, they’re already receiving indirect bailouts from the European Central Bank, which is buying up their dodgy debt in hopes of postponing the day of reckoning.

The one silver lining to this dark cloud is that the United States still can turn things around. Greece, Italy, and other welfare states have probably passed the point of no return, but it’s still possible for American lawmakers to fix the entitlement crisis by turning Medicaid over to the states , modernizing Medicare into a premium-support system, and transitioning to a system of personal retirement accounts for younger workers.

If those reforms don’t take place, the consequences won’t be pleasant. To be blunt, there won’t be an IMF to bail out the United States.

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Cato Institute:Spending is our problem Part 1

Uploaded by on Feb 15, 2011

Dan Mitchell, Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, speaks at Moving Forward on Entitlements: Practical Steps to Reform, NTUF’s entitlement reform event at CPAC, on Feb. 11, 2011.

People think that we need to raise more revenue but I say we need to cut spending. Take a look at a portion of this article from the Cato Institute:

The Damaging Rise in Federal Spending and Debt

by Chris Edwards

Joint Economic Committee
United States Congress

Joint Economic CommitteeUnited States Congress

Added to cato.org on September 20, 2011

This testimony was delivered on September 20, 2011.

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to testify today. My comments will examine the likely damage to the economy if federal spending and debt keep spiraling upward.

Rising Spending and Debt

Federal spending and debt have soared over the past decade. As a share of gross domestic product, spending grew from 18 percent in 2001 to 24 percent in 2011, while debt held by the public jumped from 33 percent to 67 percent. The causes of this expansion include the costs of wars, growing entitlement programs, rising spending on discretionary programs, and the 2009 economic stimulus bill.

Projections from the Congressional Budget Office show that without reforms spending and debt will keep on rising for decades to come.1 Under the CBO’s “alternative fiscal scenario,” spending will grow to about 34 percent of GDP by 2035, as shown in Figure 1, and debt held by the public will increase to at least 187 percent of GDP.2

Hopefully, we will never reach anywhere near those levels of spending and debt. Going down that path would surely trigger major financial crises, as the ongoing debt problems in Europe illustrate. It is also very unlikely that Americans would support such a huge expansion of the government. The results of the 2010 elections suggest that the public has already started to revolt against excessive federal spending and debt.

Some policymakers are calling for a “balanced” package of spending cuts and tax increases to reduce federal deficits. But CBO projections show that the long-term debt problem is not a balanced one — it is caused by historic increases in spending, not shortages of revenues. Revenues have fallen in recent years due to the poor economy, but when growth returns, revenues are expected to rise to the normal level of about 18 percent of GDP — even with all current tax cuts in place. It is spending that is expected to far exceed normal levels in the future, and thus spending is behind the huge increases in debt that are projected.

1 Congressional Budget Office, “Long-Term Budget Outlook,” June 2011.
2 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, “Economic Outlook Database,” September 2011, Annex Table 25, http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/5/51/2483816.xls.

Federal government loves to eat up our money: “Yum Yum Eat em up”

The federal government loves to eat up more and more of our money. Back in the first few years of the 20th century our federal government usually spent about 3% of our money per year unless we were involved in a war, but now the percentage of GDP is up to almost 25%. It reminds me of the “Yum Yum Eat em up” short film I saw many years ago.

Federal Spending Is Outpacing Inflation

Everyone wants to know more about the budget and here is some key information with a chart from the Heritage Foundation and a video from the Cato Institute.

Prices of goods and services normally rise year to year, but federal spending has risen even faster. Although spending grew substantially after 9/11, less than half of the increase can be attributed to defense and homeland security spending.

YEAR-TO-YEAR PERCENTAGE CHANGE

Download

Federal Spending Is Outpacing Inflation

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and White House Office of Management and Budget.

Chart 4 of 42

In Depth

  • Policy Papers for Researchers

  • Technical Notes

    The charts in this book are based primarily on data available as of March 2011 from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The charts using OMB data display the historical growth of the federal government to 2010 while the charts using CBO data display both historical and projected growth from as early as 1940 to 2084. Projections based on OMB data are taken from the White House Fiscal Year 2012 budget. The charts provide data on an annual basis except… Read More

  • Authors

    Emily GoffResearch Assistant
    Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy StudiesKathryn NixPolicy Analyst
    Center for Health Policy StudiesJohn FlemingSenior Data Graphics Editor

Wild Man From Borneo – YUM YUM EEAAAAT EM UP!

Balancing the budget can be done

Balancing the budget can be done.

Spending is the problem but it can be slowed in order to balance the budget.

It’s Simple to Balance the Budget without Higher Taxes

Posted by Daniel J. Mitchell

John Podesta of the Center for American Progress had a column in Politico yesterday asserting that “closing the budget gap entirely on the spending side would require draconian programmatic cuts.” He went on to complain that there are some people who “refuse to look at the revenue side of the ledger – while insisting that we dig the hole $830 billion deeper over the next decade by extending the Bush tax cuts.”

Not surprisingly, Mr. Podesta is totally wrong. It’s actually not that challenging to balance the budget. And it doesn’t even require any spending cuts, though it would be a very good idea to dramatically downsize the federal government. Here’s a chart showing this year’s spending and revenue totals. It then shows the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of how much revenues will grow, assuming all the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts are made permanent and assuming that the alternative minimum tax is adjusted for inflation. As you can see, balancing the budget is a simple matter of limiting the annual growth of federal spending.

So how is it that Mr. Podesta can spout sky-is-falling rhetoric about “draconian” cuts when all that’s needed is fiscal restraint? The answer is that politicians in Washington have concocted a self-serving budget process that automatically assumes that all previously-planned spending increases should occur. So if the politicians put us on a path to make government 8 percent bigger next year and there is a proposal to instead limit spending growth to 3 percent, that 3 percent increase gets portrayed as a 5 percent cut.

This is a great scam, at least for the political class. They get to buy more votes by boosting the burden of government spending, but they get to tell voters that they’re being fiscally responsible. And they get to claim that they have no choice but to raise taxes because there’s no other way to balance the budget. In the real world, though, this translates into bigger government and puts us on a path to a Greek-style fiscal nightmare.

The goal of fiscal policy should be smaller government, not fiscal balance. Deficits are just a symptom of a government that is too large, as I have explained elsewhere. But the good news is that spending discipline is the right answer, regardless of the objective. I explained this in more detail for a piece in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer. Here’s an excerpt.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal government this year is spending almost $3.5 trillion. Tax receipts are estimated to be less than $2.2 trillion, which means a projected deficit of about $1.35 trillion. So can we balance the budget when there is that much red ink? And is it possible to eliminate deficits while also extending the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts? The answer is yes. …It’s a simple matter of mathematics. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that tax revenue will grow by an average of 7.3 percent annually over the next 10 years. Reducing the budget deficit is easy – so long as politicians increase overall spending by less than that amount. And with inflation projected to be about 2 percent over the same period, this is an ideal environment for some long-overdue fiscal discipline. If spending is simply capped at the current level with a hard freeze, the budget is balanced by 2016. If we limit spending growth to 1 percent each year, the budget is balanced in 2017. And if we allow 2 percent annual spending growth – letting the budget keep pace with inflation, the budget balances in 2020. …Interest groups that are used to big budget increases will be upset if spending growth is limited to 1 or 2 percent each year. It means entitlements will need to be reformed. It means we might need to get rid of programs and departments that are not legitimate functions of the federal government. You better believe that these changes will cause a lot of squealing by lobbyists and other insiders. But that complaining will be a sign that fiscal policy is finally heading in the right direction. The key thing to understand is that there is no need for tax increases. Politicians might not balance the budget if we say no to all tax increases. But the experience in Europe shows that oppressive tax burdens are not a recipe for fiscal balance either. Milton Friedman was correct many years ago when he warned that, “In the long run government will spend whatever the tax system will raise, plus as much more as it can get away with.”

Dear Senator Pryor, why not pass the Balanced Budget Amendment? (“Thirsty Thursday”, Open letter to Senator Pryor)

Dear Senator Pryor,

Why not pass the Balanced Budget Amendment? As you know that federal deficit is at all time high (1.6 trillion deficit with revenues of 2.2 trillion and spending at 3.8 trillion).

On my blog www.HaltingArkansasLiberalswithTruth.com I took you at your word and sent you over 100 emails with specific spending cut ideas. However, I did not see any of them in the recent debt deal that Congress adopted. Now I am trying another approach. Every week from now on I will send you an email explaining different reasons why we need the Balanced Budget Amendment. It will appear on my blog on “Thirsty Thursday” because the government is always thirsty for more money to spend.

New CBO Numbers Re-Confirm that Balancing the Budget Is Simple with Modest Fiscal Restraint

Posted by Daniel J. Mitchell

Many of the politicians in Washington, including President Obama during his State of the Union address, piously tell us that there is no way to balance the budget without tax increases. Trying to get rid of red ink without higher taxes, they tell us, would require “savage” and “draconian” budget cuts.

I would like to slash the budget and free up resources for private-sector growth, so that sounds good to me. But what’s the truth?

The Congressional Budget Office has just released its 10-year projections for the budget, so I crunched the numbers to determine what it would take to balance the budget without tax hikes. Much to nobody’s surprise, the politicians are not telling the truth.

The chart below shows that revenues are expected to grow (because of factors such as inflation, more population, and economic expansion) by more than 7 percent each year. Balancing the budget is simple so long as politicians increase spending at a slower rate. If they freeze the budget, we almost balance the budget by 2017. If federal spending is capped so it grows 1 percent each year, the budget is balanced in 2019. And if the crowd in Washington can limit spending growth to about 2 percent each year, red ink almost disappears in just 10 years.

These numbers, incidentally, assume that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts are made permanent (they are now scheduled to expire in two years). They also assume that the AMT is adjusted for inflation, so the chart shows that we can balance the budget without any increase in the tax burden.

I did these calculations last year, and found the same results. And I also examined how we balanced the budget in the 1990s and found that spending restraint was the key. The combination of a GOP Congress and Bill Clinton in the White House led to a four-year period of government spending growing by an average of just 2.9 percent each year.

We also have international evidence showing that spending restraint – not higher taxes – is the key to balancing the budget. New Zealand got rid of a big budget deficit in the 1990s with a five-year spending freeze. Canada also got rid of red ink that decade with a five-year period where spending grew by an average of only 1 percent per year. And Ireland slashed its deficit in the late 1980s by 10 percentage points of GDP with a four-year spending freeze.

No wonder international bureaucracies such as the International Monetary fund and European Central Bank are producing research showing that spending discipline is the right approach

Daniel J. Mitchell • January 27, 2011 @ 12:00 pm
Filed under: Government and Politics; Health Care; Tax and Budget Policy

Is the USA heading down the same path as Greece?

Too many riding in the wagon and not enough pulling the wagon. Is the USA heading down the same path as Greece?

U.S. Should Learn from Europe’s Welfare State Mistakes

by Daniel J. Mitchell 

Daniel J. Mitchell is a top expert on tax reform and supply-side tax policy at the Cato Institute.

Added to cato.org on November 8, 2011

This article appeared in US News and World Report on November 7, 2011.

Our long-run outlook is grim, but at least we still have time to reform the entitlement programs and save America from Greek-style fiscal collapse.

The conventional wisdom among economists is that a nation gets in deep trouble when government debt reaches 90 percent of GDP. That’s generally true, but it would be much more accurate to say that a nation gets in deep trouble when debt approaches 90 percent of GDP and the fiscal outlook shows even more red ink.

But this distinction doesn’t really matter much for the United States and Europe. Thanks to a combination of entitlement programs and aging populations, both face a bleak fiscal future. A 2010 study from the Bank for International Settlement shows that government debt in most industrialized nations will soar above 200 percent of GDP (in some cases, much higher) within the next few decades.

At some point, investors are going to realize that the United States is on an unsustainable path.

The only major difference is that European nations are farther down the path to fiscal collapse. The welfare state was adopted earlier in Europe and government spending among euro nations now consumes a staggering 49 percent of economic output. This heavy fiscal burden, especially when combined with onerous tax systems, helps explain why growth is anemic.

But the United States is only a couple of decades behind. According to long-run forecasts from the Congressional Budget Office, the burden of federal spending will reach European levels as the baby boom generation retires.

At some point, investors are going to realize that the United States is on an unsustainable path. Whether that’s 10 years from now or 20 years from now is anybody’s guess.

Daniel J. Mitchell is a top expert on tax reform and supply-side tax policy at the Cato Institute.

 

More by Daniel J. Mitchell

What we do know, however, is that Greece, Portugal, and Ireland already have stuck their snouts in the bailout trough, and it’s probably just a matter of time before Italy, Spain, and Belgium are in the same category. Heck, they’re already receiving indirect bailouts from the European Central Bank, which is buying up their dodgy debt in hopes of postponing the day of reckoning.

The one silver lining to this dark cloud is that the United States still can turn things around. Greece, Italy, and other welfare states have probably passed the point of no return, but it’s still possible for American lawmakers to fix the entitlement crisis by turning Medicaid over to the states , modernizing Medicare into a premium-support system, and transitioning to a system of personal retirement accounts for younger workers.

If those reforms don’t take place, the consequences won’t be pleasant. To be blunt, there won’t be an IMF to bail out the United States.

Brantley misses the point, it is time to cut spending dramatically

Max Brantley wrote on the Arkansas Times Blog:

REPUBLICANS: BOTH SIDES NOW: Super committee budget talks having failed because of a Republic refusal to increase taxes on the rich, they have now set about having it both ways. They are now saying, contrary to evidence, that they indeed proposed to raise taxes on the rich.

____________________

When the federal government brings in 2.2 trillion and spends 3.7 trillion a year then it is time for dramatic cuts. Taxes should be off the table. He has gone on for months blaming the Republicans for not wanting to raise taxes but spending is the problem.

Take a look at a portion of this article below by Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute:

The budget problem is a spending problem. The Bush tax cuts accounted for just 14 to 16 percent of the massive shift from surplus to deficit over the last decade. According to the Congressional Budget Office future deficits will be massive and rising even with federal revenues above the 40-year average of 18 percent of GDP.

We are spending too much, and not spending wisely. The answer is to cut outlays. Not to give politicians more money, which they also will spend, and not spend wisely.

The failure of the supercommittee should not surprise anyone. Legislators never like making tough decisions. After spending wildly for years, they aren’t prepared to cut back.

But reducing outlays is not just an accounting exercise. It requires Americans to rethink what they want the U.S. government to do at home and abroad. Only if they decide to have Washington do less can Washington spend less.

First, Social Security and Medicare should be narrowed to focus on the poor. No more middle class welfare. If you can afford to care for yourself, you collect no more federal checks. And the young should be allowed to opt out of the programs, putting money aside for their own retirement and health care. Over the long-term this will cut trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities.

Second, Medicaid should be turned into a competitive voucher program that shares cost savings with frugal recipients. It will never be cheap to provide health care for the poor, but only by changing the program’s underlying incentives can much money be saved. Reforming Medicaid is important for state governments as well as Washington.

Third, the U.S. government should focus defense spending on defense. No more social engineering around the world. No more subsidies for rich states and nation-building in poor ones. No more interventions here, there, and everywhere for no good purpose. Then military outlays could be cut substantially.

Fourth, take these steps and the government would borrow less, reducing interest payments naturally. That would create a “virtuous cycle” of falling outlays, deficits, and debts.

Fifth, toss in big reductions in domestic discretionary spending for good measure. Let people spend their own money for their families and communities. Then government would be left doing the few things that it really should do.

Solving Washington’s budget crisis is simple, but not easy. Only if the American people demand that Uncle Sam do less will he spend less. Ultimately we, not the super committee or anyone else, are responsible for our fiscal future.

Federal government loves to eat up our money: “Yum Yum Eat em up”

The federal government loves to eat up more and more of our money. Back in the first few years of the 20th century our federal government usually spent about 3% of our money per year unless we were involved in a war, but now the percentage of GDP is up to almost 25%. It reminds me of the “Yum Yum Eat em up” short film I saw many years ago.

Federal Spending Is Outpacing Inflation

Everyone wants to know more about the budget and here is some key information with a chart from the Heritage Foundation and a video from the Cato Institute.

Prices of goods and services normally rise year to year, but federal spending has risen even faster. Although spending grew substantially after 9/11, less than half of the increase can be attributed to defense and homeland security spending.

YEAR-TO-YEAR PERCENTAGE CHANGE

Download

Federal Spending Is Outpacing Inflation

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and White House Office of Management and Budget.

Chart 4 of 42

In Depth

  • Policy Papers for Researchers

  • Technical Notes

    The charts in this book are based primarily on data available as of March 2011 from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The charts using OMB data display the historical growth of the federal government to 2010 while the charts using CBO data display both historical and projected growth from as early as 1940 to 2084. Projections based on OMB data are taken from the White House Fiscal Year 2012 budget. The charts provide data on an annual basis except… Read More

  • Authors

    Emily GoffResearch Assistant
    Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy StudiesKathryn NixPolicy Analyst
    Center for Health Policy StudiesJohn FlemingSenior Data Graphics Editor

Wild Man From Borneo – YUM YUM EEAAAAT EM UP!

Cato Institute:Spending is our problem Part 1

Uploaded by on Feb 15, 2011

Dan Mitchell, Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, speaks at Moving Forward on Entitlements: Practical Steps to Reform, NTUF’s entitlement reform event at CPAC, on Feb. 11, 2011.

People think that we need to raise more revenue but I say we need to cut spending. Take a look at a portion of this article from the Cato Institute:

The Damaging Rise in Federal Spending and Debt

by Chris Edwards

Joint Economic Committee
United States Congress

Joint Economic CommitteeUnited States Congress

Added to cato.org on September 20, 2011

This testimony was delivered on September 20, 2011.

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to testify today. My comments will examine the likely damage to the economy if federal spending and debt keep spiraling upward.

Rising Spending and Debt

Federal spending and debt have soared over the past decade. As a share of gross domestic product, spending grew from 18 percent in 2001 to 24 percent in 2011, while debt held by the public jumped from 33 percent to 67 percent. The causes of this expansion include the costs of wars, growing entitlement programs, rising spending on discretionary programs, and the 2009 economic stimulus bill.

Projections from the Congressional Budget Office show that without reforms spending and debt will keep on rising for decades to come.1 Under the CBO’s “alternative fiscal scenario,” spending will grow to about 34 percent of GDP by 2035, as shown in Figure 1, and debt held by the public will increase to at least 187 percent of GDP.2

 

Hopefully, we will never reach anywhere near those levels of spending and debt. Going down that path would surely trigger major financial crises, as the ongoing debt problems in Europe illustrate. It is also very unlikely that Americans would support such a huge expansion of the government. The results of the 2010 elections suggest that the public has already started to revolt against excessive federal spending and debt.

Some policymakers are calling for a “balanced” package of spending cuts and tax increases to reduce federal deficits. But CBO projections show that the long-term debt problem is not a balanced one — it is caused by historic increases in spending, not shortages of revenues. Revenues have fallen in recent years due to the poor economy, but when growth returns, revenues are expected to rise to the normal level of about 18 percent of GDP — even with all current tax cuts in place. It is spending that is expected to far exceed normal levels in the future, and thus spending is behind the huge increases in debt that are projected.

1 Congressional Budget Office, “Long-Term Budget Outlook,” June 2011.
2 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, “Economic Outlook Database,” September 2011, Annex Table 25, http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/5/51/2483816.xls.

Balancing the budget is easy

Spending is the problem but it can be slowed in order to balance the budget.

It’s Simple to Balance the Budget without Higher Taxes

Posted by Daniel J. Mitchell

John Podesta of the Center for American Progress had a column in Politico yesterday asserting that “closing the budget gap entirely on the spending side would require draconian programmatic cuts.” He went on to complain that there are some people who “refuse to look at the revenue side of the ledger – while insisting that we dig the hole $830 billion deeper over the next decade by extending the Bush tax cuts.”
 
Not surprisingly, Mr. Podesta is totally wrong. It’s actually not that challenging to balance the budget. And it doesn’t even require any spending cuts, though it would be a very good idea to dramatically downsize the federal government. Here’s a chart showing this year’s spending and revenue totals. It then shows the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of how much revenues will grow, assuming all the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts are made permanent and assuming that the alternative minimum tax is adjusted for inflation. As you can see, balancing the budget is a simple matter of limiting the annual growth of federal spending.

So how is it that Mr. Podesta can spout sky-is-falling rhetoric about “draconian” cuts when all that’s needed is fiscal restraint? The answer is that politicians in Washington have concocted a self-serving budget process that automatically assumes that all previously-planned spending increases should occur. So if the politicians put us on a path to make government 8 percent bigger next year and there is a proposal to instead limit spending growth to 3 percent, that 3 percent increase gets portrayed as a 5 percent cut.
 
This is a great scam, at least for the political class. They get to buy more votes by boosting the burden of government spending, but they get to tell voters that they’re being fiscally responsible. And they get to claim that they have no choice but to raise taxes because there’s no other way to balance the budget. In the real world, though, this translates into bigger government and puts us on a path to a Greek-style fiscal nightmare.
 
The goal of fiscal policy should be smaller government, not fiscal balance. Deficits are just a symptom of a government that is too large, as I have explained elsewhere. But the good news is that spending discipline is the right answer, regardless of the objective. I explained this in more detail for a piece in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer. Here’s an excerpt.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal government this year is spending almost $3.5 trillion. Tax receipts are estimated to be less than $2.2 trillion, which means a projected deficit of about $1.35 trillion. So can we balance the budget when there is that much red ink? And is it possible to eliminate deficits while also extending the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts? The answer is yes. …It’s a simple matter of mathematics. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that tax revenue will grow by an average of 7.3 percent annually over the next 10 years. Reducing the budget deficit is easy – so long as politicians increase overall spending by less than that amount. And with inflation projected to be about 2 percent over the same period, this is an ideal environment for some long-overdue fiscal discipline. If spending is simply capped at the current level with a hard freeze, the budget is balanced by 2016. If we limit spending growth to 1 percent each year, the budget is balanced in 2017. And if we allow 2 percent annual spending growth – letting the budget keep pace with inflation, the budget balances in 2020. …Interest groups that are used to big budget increases will be upset if spending growth is limited to 1 or 2 percent each year. It means entitlements will need to be reformed. It means we might need to get rid of programs and departments that are not legitimate functions of the federal government. You better believe that these changes will cause a lot of squealing by lobbyists and other insiders. But that complaining will be a sign that fiscal policy is finally heading in the right direction. The key thing to understand is that there is no need for tax increases. Politicians might not balance the budget if we say no to all tax increases. But the experience in Europe shows that oppressive tax burdens are not a recipe for fiscal balance either. Milton Friedman was correct many years ago when he warned that, “In the long run government will spend whatever the tax system will raise, plus as much more as it can get away with.”